It’s the Ergonomy, Stupid!

Part II—The Remedies?

While “Ergonomics’” is the science of making the work environment safe and efficient, “Social Ergonomics” is a new term, coined to describe efficiency derived from the mental attitude of workers toward a common work ethic.

Part I was a critique of where Britain is going wrong after a 12-year-failure to achieve economic growth and prosperity for its citizens. Now the OECD forecasts a UK recession lasting into 2025. The purpose of this part is to posit remedies to better achieve that than defensive policies outlined in the Autumn Statement of November 17th.

The problem is that effective remedies are radical and involve ditching present presumptions about what the UK is and can be. Bitter pills must be swallowed. The Shibboleth that must fall for antidotes to take effect are:

  • Britain can no longer claim to be a global, nuclear power; it can’t afford either
  • Britain is now so weak it needs membership of a large trading bloc to prosper
  • It can afford a full social programme only through suitably high NI/tax contributions 
  • UK as a common culture has gone, now replaced by an English Empire, writ small
  • Stop making grubby money as refuge for oligarchs/non-doms and acting as the legalising mothership for offshore money laundering
  • Accept adoption of an new industrial base, requiring global leaders in key areas

Britain needs something visionary and radical to achieve growth and prosperity. Suggested remedies and components to address each of these cases are: 

Shibboleth 1—Global Nuclear Power

UK forces are a shadow of when the “Big Three” met at Yalta in 1944. Yet they remain structured for a global power. This makes them ineffectual in dealing with even small conflicts without help. Radical reorganisation is required:

  1. Scrap the nuclear deterrent UK can’t afford; it is unusable anyway
  2. Scrap/sell both aircraft carriers; redeploy F-35s
  3. Strengthen infantry, amphib and special forces capability
  4. Go through MoD procurement like a dose of salts; most need to be fired

Shibboleth 2 Brexit. 

The thin majority in the 2016 vote has long been overtaken by events, dear boy. The current weak economy is appreciably weaker than it would have been without Brexit. Ignore the Little-Englanders, munch humble pie and get back into the biggest, closest and most compatible trading bloc we could find, but:

  1. This time, join the EU wholeheartedly and not be seen as a constant gripe.
  2. Form a pro-active partnership with EU “Northerners” (Scandinavia; Holland; Germany; Baltics) against economic waywardness of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) and bureaucratic bloat of Brussels/Strasbourg
  3. Get creative on immigration, luring professionals globally and training the less skilled—especially immigrants filling gaps in the work force to handle more than manual/unskilled jobs
  4. Together with Ireland, spearhead these islands as the investment foothold in the EU

Shibboleth 3—NHS and Social Services Are Fit for Purpose. 

To fit in with “Northerners”, a radical revision is essential. A full integration of health with social care, involving overhaul of inept NHS administration, integration with private health care, all to minimise the extra central funding needed. This should include:

  1. Democratisation of health into local government
  2. Introduction of nominal charges—for prescriptions; no-shows; foreigners
  3. Proper integration of GPs & surgeries into the health system
  4. Integrated health and social care homes in rural areas
  5. Scheme for rewarding GPs for the number of healthy patients on their books
  6. Encouragement/incentives NOT to see doctors like mechanics who fix cars

Shibboleth 4— The Union 

The Conservative and Unionist party added the latter part in reference to Ireland and see how well that went. They haven’t learned and are irritating Scots and remaining Irish alike with their post-imperial attitudes. Ardent unionists may refuse to see writing on the wall, but all four nations are drifting apart.

  1. Give the Scots as many referenda as they want; Quebec is still Canadian
  2. If Scotland votes to leave, let it; amicable divorce beats married acrimony
  3. Accept the way things are going, ditch the DUP and let Ireland unite
  4. This would solve the thorny,  intractable NI protocol issue at a stroke
  5. It would also clear the air in relations with the EU, paving the way to re-join

Shibboleth 5—UK Fiscal Probity Is Intact

London has long been a financial centre for international finance, insurance, etc. it has stayed relevant by means of the “Big Bang” in 1988. The resulting openness, plus UK tolerance of tax havens in Jersey, Cayman Islands, etc. can hide questionable money. The Panama Papers blew the lid off such practices. (see “Desert Island Dosh”). This sullies Britain’s reputation for probity, so:

  1. Demand thousands of non-doms pay tax. (this would net ~ £3 bn in tax)
  2. Demand clear ownership of properties/businesses = no offshore companies
  3. Start normal taxation in British Crown dependencies and offshore territories

Shibboleth 6—UK Social Ergonomucs Are Healthy

The term may be new, but its concept is key to Britain’s future. UK productivity has stagnated for a decade. Social ergonomics optimises mental attitude among workers.  Japanese companies have long promoted a corporate culture of personal motivation to do the job well. It can be found in many smaller enterprises in Britain, but also in larger corporations in Germany, Japan and USA (especially in high-tech). But in Britain a legacy of adversarial “big boss vs shop floor” prevails. The root of this is societal. If tackled, those benefitting from social ergonomics bring engagement and productivity. This creates enterprise growth and therefore economic growth. To secure this, we should consider:

  1. Rewarding initiative and engagement above rote and exam marks at school
  2. Accept not all kids can do all things and re-introduce streaming in schools
  3. Remove private school exemptions, but adopt their techniques and standards
  4. Stop regarding vocational or creative careers as inferior to doctors/lawyers
  5. Establish three new “flagship” global industrial leaders (c.f. Rolls Royce), such as tidal power; industrial-scale electricity storage; biotech. But do NOT give this task to chocolate teapot money sinks like Scottish Enterprise, who richly deserve to get their collective jotters.
  6. Introduce performance-related pay to the public sector, perhaps by expanding the system of setting targets once used by the Civil Service
  7. Remove automatic pay rises with length of service in the public sector
  8. Adopt the idea of abolishing executive suites, canteens, parking spaces.
  9. Levy punitive tax on excessive executive pay/bonus—except stock options

Is the chance of all of the above being implemented fantasy? Yes. Are some of the items by themselves fantasy? Also, yes. But if someone had, in the early days of Georgian Britain, forecast that we would lead the world into the industrial age with dominant technology, one fifth of mankind under its control, giving unheard-of affluence to every class, they would have been laughed out of court.

What is on offer from the government is defensive; it seeks—at best—to pretend we’re still a global power. At worst, it is a shoddy attempt to cling to power. As a medium power that is part of Europe, Britain could have a great future. But not the way we’re currently headed.

“The future isn’t what it used to be”

—Institute of Fiscal Studies

#1055—1,194 words.

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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